Unexpected Triggers

The Modern Love podcast opened up the new season with an essay called “One Man’s Trash.” The author of the essay describes an event that acted as an unexpected trigger of his dead partner’s memory. The result was a long, cathartic sob, followed by release.

Rather than unexpected triggers, June typically offers me nothing other than expected triggers. June is a memory landmine month. This year marks 19 years since my father and grandfather died. My father’s birthday is in early June. Then father’s day. Then my grandfather’s deathday. The following day is my father’s. Some years, Father’s Day is on the same day as one of the deathdays. I’m not sure if having everything compounded on the same day makes it harder or easier.

Hearing this podcast in the early days of June made me think of some triggers. While I don’t often experience those raw, heart wrenching, painful yearnings anymore, something new is developing. Sometimes the unexpected triggers result in something pleasurable, almost as though my father is sending me a small hug, a pat on the back, a wink, or even one of his infectious guffaws. This last one is mostly reserved when I hear something that would have resonated with his specific “nerd humor.”

Recently I experienced two of these familiar, loving triggers. On a whim I decided to try out a doughnut shop I recently discovered. I’m not much of a doughnut person. When I do get a doughnut, I usually go for a plain chocolate one. Or maybe a chocolate one with something sprinkled on it. However, this time, I instantly ordered the equivalent of a Boston Cream doughnut. I didn’t even see the other offerings, but knew I had to get this one. Of course in Canada the doughnut has another name without “Boston” in it, but it was basically the same thing. More importantly, my father’s favorite flavor, something I learned after he died.

Earlier in the month, while visiting a friend, I noticed a dime on the ground. Without hesitating I bent over to pick it up. At the same instant I remember thinking, “still healthy enough to pick up loose change.” Then I chuckled. My father always picked up loose change, something I’m sure he would still be doing even though nobody has used cash in the last two years. It made that dime worth more than ten cents.

The Covid Purge

As Covid restrictions are relaxing, I’ve been going out more. It’s forced me to consider the things I’m wearing. Admittedly, for the last two years, I’ve basically been wearing yoga pants, t-shirts, and hoodies. On the plus side, I haven’t bought any new clothes, except for socks, underwear, and yoga pants. On the flip side, I also haven’t worn about 90% of my wardrobe. All to say, it’s time for a purge.

Normally I like to purge clothes every two years, on a rotating basis. This allows favorites, or special-occasion garments, a chance to be worn. It also accounts for years when I weigh a bit more or a bit less. However, the pandemic disrupted my entire rhythm. I have clothes I haven’t worn in three years and some I’ve completely outworn.

Recently I went to a friend’s house for dinner (outside and distanced). I decided to bring along some clothes I was donating to see if a friend might like them instead. Among the discards I found a beautiful summer dress I had never worn once. I purchased it at the end of summer in 2018. In 2019, the summer was rainy and I worked a lot so never got a chance to wear it. Then two years of pandemic summers (aka isolating and distancing in yoga pants and t-shirts). Now, four years later, I thought I would just pass it along to a good home. Then again, I thought maybe this was my style now. I put on the four-year old, but new dress and had a smashing time.

This raised some questions for me about creating new purging criteria. Likely most of us have changed in some way or another during the pandemic. My style, assuming I still have one beyond yoga pants and t-shirts, is different. Office attire is different. I don’t quite know how to apply this to what I currently own, but I do know I’m making different decisions.

First off, I found a place that does textile recycling for all well-loved clothing. Secondly, I’m once again subscribing to less is more. Spending two years in the same few outfits has proven this to me. Plus it had the benefit I’m sure Steve Jobs enjoyed. Wearing the same few outfits saved brain power on decision making. I’m adapting to the new post-covid normal and part of that requires a wardrobe adaptation, too.

The Practice of Recording Meetings: Is it necessary?

I had never really thought too much about recording meetings before the pandemic started. This was likely because meetings happened in person. Perhaps it was too awkward to record live and in person. Or maybe the equipment wasn’t available. Now, a simple button can record practically any virtual meeting. I blogged about this before in “Privacy in the Time of Pandemic: Video Calling” and “The Practice of Recording Meetings: Good Custom or Overload?“.

Lately it seems at least one person in every meeting wants it recorded. Personally, I find it’s usually more than enough to sit through a meeting once. The thought of having to listen and watch a recorded meeting feels a bit much. And yet, today somebody emailed me that she couldn’t attend this afternoon’s meeting. Then she requested somebody to record it for her to watch later. This is for an hour long meeting!

Whatever happened to reading minutes? Or asking a trusted colleague for highlights? Why is it that now we can easily make a recording we want them all recorded? Technology often impacts our interactions with real life events. However, watching a recorded meeting seems a bit unnecessary.

The other aspects of recorded meetings include privacy and management aspects. Recently a few questions came up at work about employees not in a meeting being able to access recordings of meetings. Was this a violation of employee privacy? From my perspective, if that employee was an invitee, or would normally have access to the notes, then it’s not. However, what if the meeting includes non-employees? All of a sudden, privacy takes on a different meaning.

This leads to the next point about management. Who is responsible for saving and maintaining this recording? Audio-video formats can be more complicated to manage over time than a document, which is how meeting minutes are normally captured. And where should these recordings be saved? Ideally, somebody would save the recordings in the same place as the minutes.

Some meetings we host are training or instructional in nature. For these meetings, it makes sense to record the demonstration for future reference. Or for people that missed the training session because it saves us time from having to do the demonstration again. In these cases, it makes sense to save the recording as training material. However, most meetings are not that straightforward.

Perhaps the best solution is to stop having meetings.

The Triumphant Return

This past weekend I played my first concert since October 2019. At that time, I took a few months off for personal reasons. I returned right as the pandemic descended. My first concert was supposed to be March 14, 2020, one day after Covid was declared a pandemic.

From that moment, the pandemic and restrictions hit orchestras hard. This really impacted wind players since we don’t have the option to mask. Additionally, some wind instruments (e.g., trumpets) are particularly powerful for spraying aerosols. Definitely not ideal circumstances when we’re all trying to avoid an airbourne illness. Also, we usually sit close together so we can hear better to align our parts.

In the early days, people made a few creative attempts to rehearse over Zoom. I tried this a couple times. We basically all muted ourselves while the conductor blasted a recording and waved around to the score for us to follow along. I didn’t find this approach satisfying.

From that point on, everything was on and off for a couple of seasons. Until finally the moment was right to join again. Exactly two years from the last rehearsal, on March 9, 2022, I attended my first rehearsal with a new orchestra. My heart swelled along with my lungs puffing along to familiar show tunes. My eyes misted up playing along to a medley from “West Side Story.” I was back!

A week before the concert, I got covid. Once again my plans thwarted by the pandemic that has plagued so many of us. I had finished with the isolation period, but still had some fatigue and coughing. I’m sure nobody minded I sat out for that concert. However, I jumped back in for the next cycle, confident I was immune until at least the end of the season.

And so, I made it through my first concert in more than two years. We were a bit under rehearsed because the conductor got covid and we missed a week. More signs of the new covid “normal” included last minute changes in the orchestra due to illness or exposure and spaced out seating. At any rate, the show must go on. This time I was thrilled to be a part of it. It definitely wasn’t my most flawless performance, but I will remember the sensation of performing again after such a long break fondly. A real joy.

Emoji Decoded

While reading an article about people dying from overdosing on illegal drugs, I stumbled across an Emoji Decoded poster from the Drug Enforcement Agency. I know emoji can symbolize certain things under the radar, or illegal substances. However, it was interesting to see it published in a poster. It reminded me of a similar danger when I was in elementary school. At that time, someone was selling temporary tattoos laced with LSD. The tattoos looked like common cartoon characters, so of course there was concern over school kids getting them.

With modern technologies available the intent is the same, but the methods are more sophisticated and far reaching. I must admit when I first blogged about Snapper in 2016, the interpretive emoji specialist from “In the Mayor’s Chambers“, I only had a faint idea of how important emoji interpretation would become. My focus was on people relying on emoji, rather than written or spoken words, to communicate. To that point, I’ve noticed when I message on my iPad, emoji is offered instead of words in the predictive text area. I thought this was strange. I still rely on words to communicate, with emoji for emphasis. I’m not big on rebus messages, which are subject to a lot of interpretation.

Looking at the DEA poster, I feel stumped by some emoji. I would never guess that a banana could mean Percocet & Oxycodone. Or that a chocolate chip cookie means “Large Batch.” Or that a baby bottle could mean cough syrup. I’m assuming the cough syrup contains something strong. This took hard work and effort to decode these symbols.

The emoji faces are confusing to me, since they can be used for many different purposes. Perhaps the most puzzling to me is the red maple leaf as the universal symbol for drugs. Maybe this is because I’ve lived in Canada for a long time and it looks a bit like the Canadian flag. As far as I know, Canada doesn’t have more illegal drugs than any other country.

Like most things, context is everything. I’m sure to somebody in the DEA analyzing these messages, the emoji makes sense. As much as I love emoji as a message enhancer, is it productive for us to rely on it so much? Is it a good replacement for words? In the future, we’ll have to follow Snapper’s lead and become interpretive emoji specialists.

The Dead-Tree Book Dilemma

I first read the term “dead-tree book” in an article about kids’ sleep. One mother allowed her child to read “dead-tree books” before bedtime. The description sounded odd to me, I suppose because I think about books as either paper or electronic. Dead-tree books has a rather morbid ring to it and resurrected my usual debate between ebooks vs. books.

I’ve blogged about the pros and cons of each format a number of times (read Tangible, Gateway to the World, The Basics of Reading a Book, and Digital Decisions). I’m always conflicted about which one I like better. For convenience, I love the ebook. My ereader is so portable. It’s lightweight and small. Plus it’s easy to read in any position. With regular books, I often find my hands or neck in an awkward position when I’m reading on my side or sometimes laying down on my back.

I find both formats equally immersive. My ereader is only for books so there are no digital distractions. However, I find paper books are better for variety. Many books on my reading list are currently not available in an electronic format.

I’ve been reading a lot of regular books lately. Every time I go to the library they have great books on display and I can’t resist taking at least one. This is one advantage over the ebooks. There are lists of ebooks, but I find scrolling through them can get tiresome. Whereas a good book display is very easy and visually appealing to peruse.

However, hearing the term “dead-tree book” made me think about waste. When I was a kid, throwing out or recycling a book was inconceivable. Now in today’s disposable culture, people can’t even give books away for free. I’m always walking past boxes and stacks of books left out in the elements on the curb for people to take. I’ve seen books peeking through blue, recycling bags and mixed in with other kinds of recycling. I was always horrified by this, but now I’ll look at these things and think “dead tree.”

On the other hand, I can’t honestly say going electronic is any less wasteful. I’ve owned 4 ereaders in the last 10 years. Each one replaced for various reasons. Needless to say, they don’t last very long. Although I recycle them as e-waste, it’s likely they’re hanging around in a landfill somewhere.